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5 study habits of successful students: a parents’ guide

Study habits

We all know that good study habits are vital to success and to getting good grades.  As parents, we also want to help our children achieve their best potential, so it makes sense to help them develop good study habits.

Whilst forming new habits is not easy, the good news is that experts advise ‘that strategies such as creating a specific and reasonable goal for change, being mindful of how one’s environment influences the effort to make progress toward it, and looping in other people who care about one’s progress can all help make the process of habit formation more successful.’

If we can set specific goals for our children, provide an environment conducive to focused study, and help them with their progress, we can help them form the good study habits of successful students.

Help them to get organised

It is almost impossible for your child to be an effective student if they are not organised.  If they do not know where all their notes and books are, or which notes relate to which part of the course, they have very little chance of writing good assignments or revising for tests.  Organisation is a crucial study habit for them to develop.

If they have already got into a mess with their notes and materials, you may have to jump in and help them sort it out.  When things start to get out of control, young people often become overwhelmed and are unsure how to fix it.  Giving them a hand will get things back on track, but then it is important that they develop the habit of organising their study materials in future.   Help them organise their notes in notebooks or ring binders by course module, clearly defined, so it is easy for them to find what they need.  This will also help them make sense of their course and the huge amount of content in a modern qualification.

Make a study plan to help form good study habits

It isn’t just notes that need to be organised; study time needs to be organised too.  If your teenager is taking GCSE/IGCSE, A level or IB, they need to work outside the classroom as well as within it. Courses require homework and time to consolidate learning from class lessons.  For some courses, such as history, literature and philosophy, they will need to do some additional reading on their own.

A good study habit for them to develop, therefore, is timetabling their homework and extra study at home.  Divide the week up into days, and then block out all the times when they cannot study, for example, when they are at school or mealtimes.  Don’t forget to put in time for relaxation, leisure activities and enough sleep.  When you see what time is available for study across the week, structure it into short study segments.  Put in regular short breaks and encourage them to stick to the plan.

Identify knowledge gaps

Go through course so far.  What don’t they know?  What are they unsure of?  Getting into the habit of regularly doing reviews of their own knowledge and identifying any areas where they are not confident is a very important study habit. Once you have identified any knowledge or skills gaps – address them.  You can go through the text books and class notes with them and do some research online.  They can ask the teacher for clarification too.  If they are still struggling with a segment of the course, or a particular skill, you might consider getting a private tutor who can work with them one to one to develop understanding.

study space

Make a quiet place for study at home

Having a designated study place – a quiet, regular place to work – will allow your child to develop good study habits.  Ideally, they need a desk, an office chair, a lamp, shelves for folders and books, plus space for their computer.  However, a simpler set up will work perfectly well.  My many face-to-face students over the last decade visited me in my dining room, where I taught every work day from the dining table.  I had my files lined up on top of the sideboard, a bookcase for my text books, and my printer on a side table. It worked very well for all that time.

Is there a space you can carve out for your child?  It can be the dining table if you have a separate dining room, a desk in their room or a study space tucked into the corner of a hallway, but it is important for them to have a designated space and get into the habit of using it.

Good study habits mean working steadily and regularly

Encourage your child to get into the habit of working steadily and regularly rather than cramming frantically before a test.  That is never a good idea long term.  Knowledge and skills built over time will always serve a student better than knowledge crammed in at the last minute.    Recent research by Oxford Sparks at Oxford University showed that skills learned gradually but consistently over a period of time gave better outcomes than cramming.

Related: help your child avoid stress

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